Court Rules City Not Liable for Rabbit Collision

The Reykjavík District Court has ruled that the City of Reykjavík does not have to compensate a local cyclist who was injured when running over a rabbit on a municipally maintained cycling path, RÚV reports.

The accident occurred in 2016, after a rabbit ran into the path of the man’s bicycle. He ran over the animal, fell off his bike, and careened into a tree. He then had to be hospitalized for ten days to recover from the injuries he sustained.

See Also: Rabbit Rescue Hops to Rehome Sixty Wild Bunnies

In his suit, the man claimed that the conditions of the cycling path were indefensible, and that the lighting at the scene of the accident was particularly bad. He also maintained that the city had been aware of an ongoing wild rabbit epidemic, as well as an increase in cycling accidents involving the wayward hoppers, but had failed to take any action about this until subsequent media coverage of the issue.

In its judgement on the case, the District Court agreed that the city would have been aware of the disturbances that rabbits could cause for cyclists on its paths. However, rabbits are wild mammals and therefore, protected by Icelandic law. “It’s clear that rabbits, like other animals including birds, cats, and rats, can find their way onto the city’s walking and cycling paths,” remarked the court, adding that it would be no easy thing for municipal authorities to prevent such encounters.

The court also found that better lighting and/or mirrors on the path would have been unlikely to prevent the accident and the city will not be obligated to pay damages to the cyclist.

Rabbit Rescue Hops to Rehome Sixty Bunnies

Sixty rabbits that were caught in the Elliðaárdalur valley on the east side of Reykjavík need furever homes, Vísir reports, but the process has been slow as there doesn’t seem to be much demand around the city for pet bunnies. Rabbit rescue organizer Gréta Sóley Sigurðardóttir says the project’s primary focus is catching and rehoming domesticated rabbits that are not suited for survival in the wild. Four of the 60 rabbits currently being kept in a temporary shelter are former pet rabbits that were released in the valley by owners who no longer wanted them.

“As it stands, we’re not taking in [as many rabbits] as we were in the beginning,” explained Gréta Sóley. “We’re mainly focused on pet rabbits that are tossed out because they don’t survive long after they’ve been released and then we also watch out for those that are wounded or injured because it’s urgent in those cases to bring them in.”

Since the fall, Villikanínur, a rescue that focuses solely on catching and rehoming these so-called “wild” rabbits, has been working with the Dýrahjálp Íslands animal shelter and the city’s Dýrahald animal services organization to catch many of the 150 – 200 rabbits currently living in Elliðaárdalur. Though rabbit owners might think they are setting their former pets free in a hospitable environment, Villikanínur notes that unfortunately, most of these domesticated rabbits “aren’t as free and living their best life as many people think,” as “they are not made for Icelandic winter.”

Most of the rescued rabbits are being housed in a shelter that was made available to the project organizers on a temporary basis. But until some of them are found homes or short-term fosters, few of their bunny buddies still living in the wild can be taken in.

If you’re interested in adopting or fostering a rescued rabbit, check the Dýrahjálp website or follow Villikanínur on Instagram. You can also donate to the rescue, which is entirely volunteer-run, uses all donations for veterinary expenses, and hopes to one day open a “bunny rescue center where people can bring their bunny instead of letting them go ‘free’” as well as a permanent shelter in Elliðaárdalur where the rabbits can “come inside and stay warm and have enough hay, pallets, and water.”

North Iceland Learning to Live With Rabbits

Those rascally rabbits! Though only relatively recently introduced to Icelandic nature, the rabbit population has laid down roots in many of the country’s forested areas. One arborist in North Iceland is conceding the only option now is to learn to live with the bunnies, RÚV reports.

Ingólfur Jóhannsson, director of the Eyjafjörður Forestry Association, said that while efforts began in 2014 to eradicate the rabbit population in Akureyri’s Kjarnaskógur forest, he no longer considers them a plague.

“These rabbits are here to stay, and we will not get rid of them,” he said. “We just have to learn to live with them.”

Rabbits with expensive taste

Ingólfur told the state broadcaster the rabbits pose the biggest threat to saplings, and flowering trees and shrubs, like rose bushes and fruit trees. He has had to protect many plants — including a new cherry tree he’s growing — with chicken wire to keep the rabbits at bay.

It’s not only in the woods that the bunnies are getting up to no good. An Akureyri greenhouse has had to install a rabbit security system that emits a high-pitched tone to deter the animals, in addition to erecting rabbit fencing around the property

“If it crosses the fence, a rabbit can eat hundreds of plants in an hour,” said Sólskógar greenhouse employee Ásgeir Þór Ásgeirsson. “So there is a lot of financial damage if they get in.”

A love-hate relationship

While Akureyri’s environmental department is responsible for keeping the rabbit population in check and estimates that it shoots 3,000 rabbits per year, not everyone dislikes the furry little fellas.

Akureyri residents told RÚV they enjoy seeing the rabbits while walking through the forest. Even arborist Ingólfur said his opinion of the animals is different if asked in a professional context or as a private individual. “It’s such love and hate,” he said. “I think it’s best described that way.”

Bunny Trouble in Akureyri

Wild rabbits are becoming an increasing problem for the residents of Akureyri who fear that the ever-growing population is not only going to munch its way through produce in local gardens, but also do lasting damage to the local ecosystem, RÚV reports.

The rabbit population was centered in Kjarnaskógur forest to the south of Akureyri and has grown considerably in recent years. In fact, never have there been so many wild rabbits seen around summer cabins in the forest as there have this year. This has forced staff to take more and more precautions to protect plant life in the forest.

The rabbits have also been doing damage to the nearby campsite of Hamrar, digging holes, gnawing on tree bark, causing lasting damage to the trees, burrowing under buildings, and even managing to burrow under asphalt.

Rabbits have even been spotted further afield at a local container service company, but in this case, are suspected to be former pets (and offspring of said pets) who have been released in the area by owners who are no longer interested in bunny breeding.

Guðríður Friðriksdóttir, district manager of the City of Akureyri’s Environment and Construction Division, says that although upwards of 1,000 rabbits have been caught in the last three to four years (mostly over the winter), this has apparently not been enough to control the population. As such, the city is attempting to remove them as possible. However, this is a difficult operation to carry out in the summer, when there are lots of people in Kjarnaskógur forest. Therefore, the division is trying to strengthen its preventative measures and nip the spread of these creatures in the bud.

Guðríður remains unconvinced, however, that this will be enough. “I think it likely that we’ll need to make greater efforts in this matter.”